Fiscal Responsibility and Balancing the Budget
I am fiscal conservative. I will monitor the City's $88.0M operating budget cognizant of the fact that these are your tax dollars. Balancing the budget and continuing to maintain our services at the highest possible level is a priority for me. As a reminder, the majority of our revenues come from Sales and Property taxes. And in the last 5 years we have seen our expenditures catching up with our revenues. As an example, our Sheriff's contract includes cost increases ranging about 4% for each of the next 4 years. And construction cost is rising. These are just a few examples. So if this trend continues, balancing our budget means we have to make choices, some easy and some not so easy. This will be a challenge and a top priority for me.
At the Council meeting on October 16th, we received the results of the closing of Fiscal Year 2017-18, ending June 30th. Our Revenues were higher than expected and our expenditures were lower than expected. That news plus other good news has led to a funding reserve of about $4.98m. This can be used to help fund the Community Center, our unfunded pension liability and other issues in our city.
Recent Council Appointment Process
On 6/5/18 Jim Cunningham resigned from the council. His seat will be up for election on November 6th. On 6/8/18 the Council met to discuss a possible appointment to fill Jim's seat thru November. After discussion from a few residents and the four members of the City Council, the council voted 3-1 in favor to begin the appointment process. I was the no vote for the following reasons:
There were only 5 months remaining until the Nov election,
An appointment would take up a lot of time for staff to get the new person up to speed, they are already too busy,
There are no scheduled major issues coming before the council in the next 5 months
Did not want to give the appointee an unfair advantage of being an incumbent over the other potential candidates to replace Jim's seat in November.
On 6/18/18 the Council met to appoint a replacement for Jim's seat. 16 candidates applied. We heard from each and then voted. My three choices were based on my past experience with them, plus two of them said they would not run in November, if appointed. My colleagues were in agreement on another candidate, Caylin Frank. Seeing that I was in the minority and that Caylin will be appointed I decided to make it unanimous. I thought it was the right thing to do so we can work together for the betterment of Poway.
I look forward to her new perspective on matters before the council.
The Center was built in 1980, with significant additions in 1995 and 2000. Previous councils have been discussing a new center for years. And since then, we have been spending thousands of dollars in repairs. It was just getting too expensive and not cost effective to pour more money into the 38 year old Community/Senior Center. On January 23, 2018, this council (with input from our residents) approved two designs and just recently we approved a consultant agreement for design services. We have two versions of the Center (18,082 sq ft and 22,587 sq ft) and will wait until the designs and cost estimates are completed ( February 2019) before we make our final decision. I prefer the larger version. But the cost to build the Center will be one of the factors in my decision. Construction should start in June 2019 and will take about 18-24 months to complete. We have set aside $9.8m in reserves to help pay for this. But I fully suspect the final estimate to be more than what has been set aside. Again, we will meet early next year to discuss.
Supporting our Seniors
Now that we have decided to build a new Center which will include our seniors I am committed in providing the necessary services for them while the Center is under construction. I am working with the Senior Center Board Members and our community to ensure we have the necessary services for them while the Center is under construction. Have reached out to the VFW, the Elks Club and many Churches to find facilities so that our Seniors can continue having some and or most of their services during this transition period. Plus we are looking for ideas from the public. If you have a good idea, let us know.
Update: We have met with the Sr Ctr Board members about 5 times in the last three or four months and are making progress.
Revitalization of Poway Road (Poway Road Specific Plan PRSP)
Discussions on this have been going on for years. About two years ago an Ad-Hoc committee was formed with residents from all over Poway. With their help, our workshops and numerous council meetings the Council approved the Poway Road Corridor Study. Before the PRSP was approved, more than 2,000 dwelling units could have been developed along Poway Poway Road. With the passing of the PRSP, Poway placed a cap of 1,148 new dwelling units on Poway Road. This will bring a mix of housing (for both renters and owners) and commercial investment along Poway Road. But as a reminder, most of the land on Poway Road is private property and any future development will depend on the negotiation between the property owner and the potential buyer. And any future proposed development will go through a review process with the City and its citizens.
And already we have seen benefits.
The Trading Post has been approved. This is where the old Poway Irrigation and Chieftain were located. At this site (2 acres) there will be 54 residential units and about 40,000 sq ft of commercial space. And there will be two underground floors for parking.
The AMC Theater on Poway Rd is undergoing renovations and once completed, will be similar to the Angelika Theater in Carmel Mountain.
The property where the Irish Pub is located has been renovated. And other property owners along Poway Road have either improved their lots and or are about ready to do so. It's a step in the right direction.
And any future development along Poway Road will always be subject to review by the council and our citizens through workshops, neighborhood meetings, Pre-Development reviews and Council meetings. And I will always be willing to sit and discuss with you any concerns you may have.
Traffic is a concern by most residents. Traffic will never be better than it is today. But this is true of most cities in our county, in fact in our country. And In Poway traffic comes up when we start talking about development in and around our community. It was brought up during the proposed Stoneridge and Metate developments. Those would have brought about 200 new homes in our community. But did you know that in my eight years on the council we have built less than 150 homes in Poway. Yet everyone states traffic is getting worse. And I agree. So why so much traffic. In my opinion it comes from two main sources.
The success of the business park. General Atomics (GA) has been growing by leaps and bounds. Buildings are going up as I speak up in the Business Park. I suspect they're about 6,000 GA employees driving though Poway every weekday going to and from work. And not many GA employees live in Poway. Maybe the proposed future development on Poway Road may entice the GA employees to live in Poway. That may help with traffic and bring more revenue to our city.
Another source of traffic are those folks who drive thru Poway to get to and from the 67 and the I15. This seems to be rising, especially on Twin Peaks, Pomerado and Community Roads. The traffic from these two sources, in my opinion, are what makes the morning and evening drives so congested.
The City is aware and trying to work our traffic issues. Along those lines the city has been upgrading our signal controllers. These will allow for better communication between the city traffic center and our intersections. This communication improves timing and coordination of traffic flow throughout the City. We have just completed one at the intersection of Twin Peaks and Community Rd. In addition, left hand turn lanes along Poway Road are in process of being extended. These will also help alleviate traffic.
But we have to be diligent. The City has a traffic committee in place and meets on average 2 or 3 times a year, pending the number of issues that our residents bring forward. Recommendations from this committee go to council for review. Will work to support and or implement measures to reduce our traffic congestion and speeding in our City.
Espola Road Safety Improvement Project
For many years past Poway City Councils have contemplated improvements along Espola Road. Finally in May of 2016 this council made a decision for the long needed improvements. This is a two part project:
Will provide a path on the west side. This will improve safety for those who walk, jog, or ride horses along the west side of Espola Road.
Overhead power lines and other equipment will be moved underground, aesthetically improving the road way and removing obstacles from the proposed pathway.
Proposed Natural Gas Line on Pomerado Road
SDG&E has been proposing to replace a 16 inch line with a 36 inch line. This line would run from Rainbow to Miramar which includes 6 miles in Poway on Pomerado Road.
On June 6th 2017, the Poway City Council voted 5-0 against this proposed route. A safer line might be needed but not down Pomerado Road where the impact would affect schools, sport fields, churches, hospitals, homes and many businesses.
Recent news: A California Public Utilities Commission administrative law judge called on the five members of the CPUC Commission to reject this pipeline proposal. They just voted 5-0 to reject the pipeline proposal. Thanks to those residents in Poway who spent their time and energy in fighting this. Goes to show you that hard work does pay off.
As you know, our City has moved to District Elections. The change from at-large to district elections was forced upon the city by an attorney from Malibu who threatened to sue, citing the California Voting Rights Act, which is designed to give minorities a better chance of being elected. We were told by our Attorney, we could fight this but it may cost our city upwards to $1 million to fight it. And the chances on us winning were slim to none.
So for about six weeks earlier this year, the council held numerous meetings to create a boundary map establishing four geographic zones from which council members will be elected. After many reviews and discussions the council selected a map. What was disappointing in this process, not many residents were involved. Disappointing but not surprising. But they had ample opportunity. There are 4 districts and the position of Mayor will remain as an at-large candidate.
It was decided, after consultation with our Lawyer, the elections in 2018 will be for Districts 1 and 3. And the elections for District 2 and 4 will start in 2020. The election for our Mayor will continue to be on the same path ( 2018, 2022, etc.) as it is now.
For this coming election in November there is a slight wrinkle. Jim Cunningham was elected in 2016 and has decided to retire about 2 ½ years before his term is up in 2020. So his seat will be up for election for this coming November and it will be an at- large position for just two years. Then in 2020 there will be elections for District 3 (mostly in North Poway) and District 4 (South Poway)
So by 2020, all Council members will have been elected by their districts. The problem I have with this new structure for our city, you will only be able to vote for two members of the council, one for your district and one for the Mayor. As a reminder, for the council to approve an agenda item you need three votes. There's the rub. But having said that, electing a representative from South Poway (District 4) should be good for our city.
Acquiring Open Space
Through the use of our Habitat Mitigation In-Lieu fee fund the City is able to acquire land to meet our preservation objectives. In recent months there have been concerns by the public if the city is doing enough in preserving our open space. Let me give you a few recent examples of what we have been doing:
In the "Larchmont" project earlier this year the owner of 80 acres came before the city. He wanted to build 10 homes on his land. This land was zoned for 1 acre per house. In the end, these 10 homes will be located on about 20 acres, the remaining 60 acres will be designated open space forever.
Just recently the city purchased 20 acres in the Rattlesnake Canyon area and another 40 acres adjancent to the “Larchmont” proposed development.
We are looking to purchase, with the help from State and Federal Grants, 162 acres on the Van Dam Peak. Expect this to happen in about 4 or 5 months
And finally, the council met to give staff approval to move forward to work to purchase/receive another 80 acres of open space. Hope to hear at a council meeting in November or December.
This is all good news!! With these purchases this will leave about $1m remaining in our Habitat In-Lieu Fee fund.
In the past few months I have heard some say we need more parks. I don’t agree for a few reasons:
Funds are not available to build a new park and we don’t have the resources to maintain it for years to come. In my opinion, any available funds should be used to upgrade our existing parks.
Our population in 1990 was 44,000. It is now about 50,000. That’s a population growth of less than a 1/2 % per year over the last 28 years. Far less than most cities in our county. Again, I do not see an immediate need for a brand new park.
And our population has been growing older, which is why the Community/Senior Center is so important.
We have many good parks in Poway such as: Poway Lake, Aubrey Park, Silverset, Starridge, Arbolitas, Community, Hilleary, Valle Verde, and Old Poway Park. Plus we have pocket parks on Adobe Ridge, Old Pomerado, Ted Williams and Garden Roads. Also we have the Blue Sky Preserve and miles and miles of trails in our community. And let’s not forget the Kumeyaay Ipai Interpretive Center. Our great volunteer community helps the city take care of our parks and our trails.
And our City has also invested in recreational needs for our community in other ways such as:
· Supports PUSD with the upkeep of the Meadowbrook and Twin Peaks Gyms and in past helped fund the Poway Football field and the Valle Elementary and Meadowbrook soccer fields
· The City has invested $3M in our Community Pool. A family can spend an entire day at the pool swimming, having a picnic, having a birthday party, etc.
· And the City will be investing over $10M in a new Community/Senior Center. Our seniors will be able spend a few hours there each day.
Having said that I believe some of our parks could use an upgrade. Community Park would be at the top of my list. It’s close to Poway Road and I would like to see any re-development on Poway Road have walking access to Community Park. When looking at next year’s budget I will address the need for additional funds to do just that, with the support of at least 2 of my colleagues. And perhaps our Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, along with staff, can help with the assessment of our current parks. This is worthy of a discussion next year prior and during the budget review.